Skip to Content

Certification and Procurement

Fern’s analysis: Whether to buy certified products is a choice consumers make on a near daily basis as certifications schemes exist for timber products, fish, organic food and many other items.

When it comes to forest products, there are two major certification schemes: the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Products and the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). The PEFC, created by the forestry sector in response to the creation of the FSC, has developed from a ‘rubber stamping’ exercise without any controls, to a genuine certification scheme. Despite these improvements, Fern’s 2001 report Behind the Logo and Fern’s 2005 report Footprints in the Forest found that the PEFC remained less rigorous than the FSC.

For many years Fern was an active supporter and member of the FSC. Its multi-stakeholder process was innovative and set a trend for other initiatives, including FLEGT.  In part thanks to FSC, good forest management is now widely seen as being a balancing act between economic, social and environmental values, rather than just as sustainable yield. This balancing act requires an inclusive, deliberative, multi-stakeholder process to set standards and processes. Lack of effective implementation of its standards, combined with an attempt – later abandoned – to certify forest carbon offsets, was, however, sufficient reason for Fern to hand in its membership in 2011.

Since then Fern’s focus has moved away from certification. Certification still has a clear role in improving forest and land management, but there are real limits to what certification can achieve. The real threats to forests today are climate change and over-consumption of forest and agricultural products, neither of which can be addressed by certification. In some cases, certification is even used as an excuse to not reduce consumption. The EU’s bioenergy policy is a good example - it encourages biofuels as long as they are certified, when it should be incentivising real renewables and dis-incentivising land based bioenergy.  There is a serious risk that future EU policies on bioenergy will make the same mistake for woody biomass

What Fern is doing: Fern is working to ensure that the EU develops and implements coherent policies that reduce the overall EU forest footprint, while increasing the percentage of commodities that are legally and sustainably sourced. Fern calls on the EU to develop a policy to reduce emissions in the forest and land sector by improving management and restoration of existing EU forests.

To learn more about our previous work on certification: see Fern's statement to the Forest Stewardship Council on withdrawing Fern's membership, Fern’s previous statement on FSC and Fern’s report analysing different certification schemes: Behind the Logo, Footprints in the forest and Buying a sustainable future.

Most recent publications

Social Criteria in Timber Procurement Policies

A legal opinion commissioned by FoE Netherlands and ICCO Netherlands on the question whether EU Governments are allowed to include social criteria in their timber procurement policies. The study concludes that this is very well possible

Microsoft Office document iconOPEN117.5 KB

FERN submission to Environmental Audit Committee

FERN's submission on sustainable timber and government procurement to the UK's parliamentary select committee

FERN and WWF submission to CPET

FERN and WWF presented their findings on the UK Government's assessment of forest certification schemes, carried out by CPET. The report includes recommendations for improving the CPET criteria.

Microsoft Office document iconFERN-WWF submission to CPET167.5 KB

UK NGOs slam DEFRA decision to approve PEFC & SFI

UK NGOs sent out a strong worded release condemning UK decision to approve PEFC and SFI. It should be noted though that DEFRA states in its own release:

"PEFC is on probation until it has demonstrated to our satisfaction that its national organisations are all following the new standards. We will also be watching to see that only those SFI certificates that confirm the required percentage of sustainable timber are accepted by government buyers."

PDF iconOPEN13.81 KB

Submission to UK Government re timber procurement

A submission by FERN, FoE and Greenpeace to the UK Environmental Audit Committee arguing the case that social criteria should be included in the UK timber procurement policy.

Microsoft Office document iconOPEN143.5 KB